Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I read Cracked articles a lot. They're generally funny and often on-the-nose, even if the titles of their articles are clickbait, and sometimes their research is questionable. Still, it makes for good reading material when I'm bored and stuck somewhere for a while.

Sometimes, though, the articles really make me think. Not long ago, in fact, David Wong wrote an article called 7 Creepy Ways Corporations are Turning You into an Addict, which is maybe worth a read if you can stand the advertisements on the Cracked website. (The phone app is about 70% less obnoxious.)

Today at some point I thought to myself, "man, I really wish I had some Sweet Tarts," which, along with that article, was kind of a kick in the pants to explore my own addictions.

First, to clarify, addiction in the sense that I'm going to be talking about is not chemical addiction. The only drug I've ever been addicted to was caffeine, the most socially accepted drug a person can be addicted to. I've written before about why I cut caffeine from my life (in short: I couldn't accept withdrawal headaches anymore), so I'm not going to explore that any further.

Instead, I'm referring to addiction as "compulsive engagement in naturally rewarding behavior...despite adverse consequences."

I hate the idea of compulsion. I'm troubled by the idea of being out of my own control, which is a mindset with its own set of problems. However, I must admit that I have to question my willpower in many situations.

For instance, I really, really need to stop checking Facebook compulsively. Even with its crazy new algorithms that ensure nothing really interesting enters my feed, I still feel compelled to check the site at least once an hour. Checking Facebook is immediately followed by checking Twitter, which is a much easier feed to navigate since it's mostly chronological.

Regardless, social media is a real problem for me, and it wastes my time. It's a useful tool for keeping up with people and news, but the compulsion to check it frequently to see if anything has changed affects my productivity, and that is a grievous sin. For Charlie, productivity is job 1.

My Sweet Tart thought from earlier today hints at another of my addictions: sugar. I've been accused of being an ant, especially after I would regularly buy those big, 2-1/2 foot long Pixie Sticks and basically shotgun them. For years I was rarely without some sort of sugary candy in my pocket, and of course I drank Coke like it was water for the greater part of two decades.

I've gotten rid of a lot of the sugar in my life now. Soft drinks have almost completely been replaced by water for me these days, and though I still crave sugary candies frequently, it doesn't take much for them to make my mouth hurt. So, I've stopped surrounding myself with those things.

However, instead I compulsively eat other foods in my vicinity. Salty foods in particular have filled the snack role in my life, but I try not to buy them too often. Unless they're on sale.

Reading has been a problem for me in the past. In fact, just a couple of nights ago I ended up lying in bed, reading page after page of a book, which resulted in me going to sleep an hour later than I had planned. That's a pretty mild repercussion these days, since I don't use alarm clocks to wake up in the morning anymore. However, it was a huge problem in the past, when I needed to wake up at specific times for class or work. The compulsion to get to the next page/chapter/"reasonable stopping point" is powerful. Though, if I'm being honest, I don't think I ever want to lose this addiction. There are worse things to be addicted to than books.

And then, of course, there's video games. To be honest, I barely find time to play video games at all these days. In fact, I have no idea where I found the time to play The Old Republic as much as I did a few weeks ago. It's almost kind of sad; a video game addiction helped get me to where I am today. However, having that addiction under control also makes me a responsible and productive member of society, so I'm not too torn up about it.

Anyway, addictions control much of our lives, whether we're addicted to drugs, love, or TV. If you're like me and prefer to control your addictions rather than allowing them to control you, the first step may be to identify them. If you recognize them as addictions, perhaps that will help you to change the way you think about those compulsions.

That's just speculation, though. Clearly I'm just starting this process myself here, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

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